Deanna Wong had a magical run during UAAP Season 81, steering Ateneo’s return to the top of collegiate women’s volleyball.
But as remarkable as that season was, it also came with a price.
Juggling academic duties with her role as a leader for a title-contending Lady Eagles took its toll on Wong.
“Being a senior was really tough. Hindi lang sa academics, but also being on the team,” shared Wong in Tiebreaker Vodcasts’ So She Did!, presented by SMART.
Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro was then in his first year with the women’s team. And he had the setter position back in his playing days — which is why he was known to rely heavily on his playmakers in every team that he handled.
Seeing the likes of Vince Mangulabnan in Cignal and Ish Polvorosa in Ateneo, Wong knew that she was next up with the arrival of the multi-titled coach.
“Coach O really believes in a setter, tapos as a senior, nag-expect din siya sa akin to lead the team.
“Ayun ‘yung mahirap lang. Hindi pa ako ganon kaano to lead the team. Doon ako natuto kung paano kasi tinuruan ako ni Coach O — pinapagalitan niya ko. So dun ako natuto, sa lahat ng galit na ‘yun,” said Wong in the vodcast hosted by Trina Guytingco and Martie Bautista.
The fact that Wong was in her senior year in college made it much harder for her. Add to that the pressure of transitioning into being the leader of a veteran-laden Ateneo squad at such a young age, and it was just too much at the time.
And so, after winning Ateneo its first championship since 2015, Wong — who suffered a stress fracture in the shin of her right league after the title run — decided to take a break from volleyball and focus on her recovery instead.
The UAAP Season 80 Best Setter first missed Ateneo’s 2019 PVL Collegiate Conference stint, then was later ruled out before the Season 82 began.
“It was also parang, nakapagpahinga ako. I took a breather kasi ‘yung Season 81 talaga, the whole year, it was really hard. Daming pagsususbok, daming pag-iyak, daming lungkot,” recalled Wong, trying to fight back tears.
“It was a breather lang for me na hindi ako nakalaro kasi parang na-timing lang din kasi na injured ako noon, kaya ‘di ako nakapaglaro ng Season 82. So I think my injury was also a blessing in disguise. Pero at the same time, nalulungkot ako kasi hindi makapaglaro ng last year ko. It was a mix of emotions lang.”
One of the more important things Wong realized during that time was that there is more to life than just volleyball. And now she is more than ready to return to the Taraflex.